Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 24 May 2018

Pat Henry: Want to stay young? Just add weights

The secret of eternal youth isn't a nip and a tuck, but a decent workout with weights, writes our fitness expert

Marilyn Monroe was known to weight train
Marilyn Monroe was known to weight train

Pat Henry

The great stars of Hollywood's golden era - from Marilyn Monroe to Clark Gable, Jane Mansfield, John Wayne - all toned their physiques with weight training. The great trainers knew of the benefit of weights long before they were introduced to the general public through a growing health club culture. Nothing worked better to tone and reshape the whole body, than completing a hard workout with weights.

Then, when a photo was released of Marilyn Monroe using bar bells on a movie set, the gym business exploded. When Jack Lalanne opened a chain of 100 gyms all over the US, Mr Kellogg got in on the health craze by opening the first health spa in New Jersey, which became home to thousands of members.

Next came Jane Fonda with the burn workout and now, the future has gone full circle, with weight training for both men and women not only a favoured method of staying in shape, but it's touted as the new secret of staying young too.

Research has shown that regular weight training three times weekly reduces stress and stops the production of cortisol, the ageing hormone which increases the destruction of healthy cells, causing the body to age more rapidly. Also, the more muscle tone you have, the more calories are needed to maintain the muscle firmness, so you burn more fat.

It sounds too good to be true that a good workout, two to three times weekly, with a combination of aerobic exercise and a clean diet could add good, healthy years to your life. But think about it: if we don't use our bodies through exercise, the muscles simply deteriorate and become weak. Posture starts to stoop forward and all the internal organs can start to function out of balance; food will not be digested properly, leading to a swelling of the tummy.

As gravity tries to pull us into the grave, it is time to fight back. Using weights will strengthen the whole body, especially as we age.

Older people who have never trained find their weakest body parts are the legs and back. Giving strength to the legs is particularly important. The stronger they are the less chance of injury from falling, and also with balance. It is good to see both young and old training alongside each other in gyms - the competition keeps us young.

There are many people that enter their later years both training hard and looking great. A lady I met last week while coming up from a swim in the freezing water in West Cork, told me on her 81st birthday she decided to get fit and lose weight. Now two stone lighter and looking great, and with a great attitude to life, she is proof that age alone is no barrier to maintaining fitness.

Statistics show a 70pc increase in strength after six months of training with weights, even in late starters.

The myth that ladies who weight train have injuries and big muscles is quite simply that - a myth. You will get toned and firm if you train properly, but getting large muscles is not something you should worry about. To obtain large muscles you need a specific weight training routine to shock the muscles and force them to grow.

The 'look' that is in at present is slim, but well toned and firm. This is achieved by training two to three times per week, combined with some form of aerobic exercise such as swimming, cycling, dancing, surfing or tennis.

I believe you need both, in tandem with eating a low GI diet, cutting out all sugars and 'low fat' foods - which contain way too much hidden sugars such as palm oil, aspartame, saccharin and fructose. The body recognises these as sugars, and there is no way of tricking the system to avoiding the sugar rush which eventually leads to insulin being released into the bloodstream. This in turn can lead to non-insulin related diabetes, which medics warn is heading towards epidemic proportions in our society.

Getting the best results from training is 30pc exercise and 70pc diet. Having had the opportunity to work with many of the stars, I know they all work out everyday, really hard.

When Bruce Springsteen was in town three weeks ago, he trained every day for an hour or more. And ultimately, training is not only for the body but also for the mind, because nothing blows away the cobwebs than a good workout session in the gym.

In addition, clinical trials have shown that training with weights is the most effective way of alleviating depression and anxiety. So whatever age you are - get started. Here a few tips:

1. Invest in a personalised programme

2. Choose a trainer who understands your needs

3. Treat yourself to new training gear

4. It's not vanity to look at yourself when training, you are focusing on each body part

5. Work out with people of all ages, you might learn something

6. Get a proper diet consultation if you need it

7. Stay away from fad diets and liquid diets; all you will lose is your health.

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